Our Family is on a Diabetic Journey…
Rob is my partner and we both talk about how life gets faster and we all get older. This is obvious and inevitable, but we CAN be in the driver’s seat and have some control over the quality of life we’re living.
Rob has had Type 1 diabetes for over 40 years and we’ve learned to manage it together. I’ve learned about hypos (low blood sugar) and I can tell by Rob’s speech or manner if his levels are low and he needs some apple juice. Somehow, I get an inkling about his blood sugar state sometimes before he does. Often when I suggest he test his sugar it will be below 4.0 (he should be between 4.8-8 ideally) requiring a sugar hit to get back on track. This intuition does prove helpful at times.
It reminds me of the time we were in Canada in a remote area for a friends’ wedding. After a fun night of dancing, drinking and eating we fell asleep about 2am in our beautiful little cottage inn. Little did I know, but Rob, who was still injecting himself with FAST acting insulin with each meal and a different 24 hour SLOW acting dose each night before bed, mixed up his insulin in the excitement. Before going to sleep he took a large dose of the fast acting – thinking it was the slow acting and went into a deep sleep. I woke at 4am and Rob didn’t stir. He’s a super light sleeper and I recognised the signs of a low blood sugar right away. Clammy skin, very deep sleep, sweating and he was a dead weight (all 6.3″ of him). I tried poking, prodding, but I couldn't wake him up. I rang the hotel's front desk who called an ambulance – the closest hospital was 30 minutes away – and the concierge came up with apple juice to assist but to no avail. The paramedics finally arrived, gave Rob a glucose injection and he still wouldn’t wake up. They then had to transfer him to a bed on wheels and get him outside into the waiting ambulance. I sat with the driver on the 30 minute trip to the closest local hospital as he asked about life in Australia and what it was like living there. I think I mumbled something about life in Australia before asking ‘is he going to die?’ On the trip Rob got another glucose injection and luckily started to stir into consciousness on our arrival to emergency so I knew he was going to be ok. Since we're not married, I had to wait in the main waiting room wondering what was happening. Rob told me later he work up to whiteness and funny Canadian accents and couldn’t figure out where he was. He made a full recovery although it was a huge wake up call for us too so we recognised that we needed to understand and manage his diabetes better.
In the last 15 years especially, I’ve learned so much about diabetes and really believe you must educate yourself and your family (Diabetes Australia is a good place to start). I don’t know how I know when Rob’s sugar is low or getting low, I just know. I’ve educated our young boys to see the signs too and encourage Rob to try and recognise the early symptoms himself faster, if possible, so he can manage his blood sugars independently which is always the best option. His family is his back up plan. If you have diabetes yourself, you need to re-educate yourself on a regular basis as there are many developments and changes that happen that can make life easier and you mustn’t become complacent. Rob has now been on an insulin pump for over 10 years, evolving with the technology available and it has really improved his quality of life and our management of his diabetes.
Diabetes has a lot to do with food and Rob has always been healthy eating good and balanced meals while also always being active. He’s never been one to head to the pub with the boys and drink too much but there’s always room for improvement no matter how small.
Being an insulin-dependent diabetic (Type 1) can have its challenges, but Rob rises to them and learns from them. Rob is happy to tell anyone who’s asking (or looking) about the funny tube sticking out of his belly or his pocket connected to his pump and explain what it does. He’s happy to education one person at a time – including me who knew next to nothing when we met! Kids especially are so keen to learn so Rob will happily share with anyone what he’s doing whether it’s checking his blood sugar on his glucometer or guzzling apple juice because he has a low blood sugar reading. When traveling he always carries his insulin in his Fridge-to-go Standard Insulin Cooler or the Fridge-to-go Single Pen Mini Insulin Cooler along with other consumables to effectively manage his diabetes.
Basically, damage is done to a diabetic’s body when their blood sugar levels are too high or too low for extended periods – for the record it should between 4-8 when testing your blood with a glucometer although this can change depending on the individual. We’ve shared the highs and the lows and our whole family is better educated now on many aspects of diabetes.
Rob made the change to a paleo diet in January 2015 and is always tweaking his diet and looking for the optimum meal plan for him. Recently he's changed to a plant-based diet and happily cooks a healthy variety of meals. His blood sugar levels have never been better and both his Endocrinologist and Diabetes Educator have been on board giving advice and guidance when needed. Rob lost about 15 kg gradually over the years. Our family eats real and healthy fresh food. We embrace his choice and support each other while teaching our kids about the benefits of eating fresh wholesome food. Rob decided himself that he wanted to make major changes in his life and prevent the blood sugar roller coaster he was experiencing and is now feeling great. Read more about his journey on his blog 'A Healthy Diabetic'.
Rob made the decision himself to change his lifestyle completely and have a fuller and healthier life so he’ll be around longer to see his boys grow up and live. No one can make this decision for you, you have to own it. I now realise what a huge step he took and couldn’t be prouder. Here's to optimum health!